Anil Ananthaswamy’s analysis of the self

In a science journalism workshop at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, Anil Ananthaswamy demonstrated to us—a motley batch of wannabe science writers—a mind trick called the “rubber hand illusion”. The volunteer for this demonstration, a young postdoctoral student, sat at a table facing the rest of us. Ananthaswamy placed a rubber hand in front of her on the table and a vertical cardboard screen next to it. He then asked the volunteer to place her left hand on the table, on the other side of the cardboard screen such that it was hidden from her view. With her vision focused entirely on the rubber hand, Ananthaswamy, standing across her, started stroking her hand as well as the rubber hand simultaneously with synchronized strokes using paint brushes. As we…

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